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Western Price Survey

Week's End Edition
June 6, 2008
Power Prices Slump on Lower Natural Gas, Spring Runoff

Daytime power prices generally fell back this week on cool weather, slipping natural gas prices and ample hydropower, though off-peak prices gained.

The most outstanding exception to the pattern was in the Pacific Northwest, which has been experiencing heavy spring runoff. More rounds of storms this week have put many of the area's rivers at or near capacity, the National Weather Service reported. The Columbia nuclear power plant in Washington state was under orders to reduce power this week to 85 percent because of high water levels.

Average daytime prices at the Mid-Columbia hub gained $16 to $23.49/MWh. Nighttime trades inched up from an average of -78 cents on Monday to 90 cents/MWh on Friday. At the California-Oregon border, average peak prices slipped $12 to $69.29/MWh, while off-peak prices added $4 to $31.19/MWh.

In California, the driest spring on record forced Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to announce the first statewide drought in 17 years and a 20 percent cut in water use. After two consecutive years of below-average rainfall, the state's hydro capacity is running about 60 percent of normal.

Peak grid demand in California has been ebbing and flowing all week with demand hitting a high Thursday of 31,700 MW, the California Independent System Operator reported, and ticking up an additional 200 MW on Friday.

At North and South of Path 15, average prime values slipped $4 to $90.39/MWh and $90.09/MWh, respectively. Off-peak prices climbed $19 for the week to an average of $62.04/MWh in the north and $62.52/MWh in the south.

On Friday, Palo Verde prime power gave back $7 to an average of $87.32/MWh, while off-peak prices gained $16 to average $62.03/MWh.

Rain was back in the Pacific Northwest courtesy of a plunging jet stream that allowed storms to move inland, AccuWeather said. Snow was in the forecast for the Cascades above 4,000 feet.

Temperatures in Portland and Seattle will be in the high 50s most of the weekend but will rise Sunday to the mid-to-high 60s.

In California, it will be sunny with highs topping out at 69 degrees in San Francisco and 77 degrees in Los Angeles. Phoenix, meanwhile, will bake in 100-degree weather.

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station's 1,070 MW second unit was offline Friday for scheduled maintenance. Also, the first unit at the Palo Verde nuclear power plant in Arizona, the country's largest, was taken offline Friday to repair a pipe weld. Palo Verde's second unit was returning to full power after being offline for a refueling outage since late March. The units each produce 1,336 MW [Kristina Shevory].

Gas Prices Turned Volatile on Weather, Economy

Natural gas prices rose this week on the back of higher oil prices, soaring unemployment and a weak dollar. As crude oil surged $10 Friday to reach $138, the Henry Hub benchmark price was $12.72/MMBtu on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Forecasts for hot weather nationwide, lower than expected supply gain and an active hurricane season also pushed up prices.

But in the West, natural gas prices were mixed on a boost in supplies and moderate weather. Average prices fell from 60 cents to $1 at the Permian, San Juan and the Southern California hubs as gas values dropped into the mid-$9/MMBtu range. But values rose about 50 cents to over $11/MMBtu at Malin and Pacific Gas & Electric's CityGate.

Moderate temperatures across the country boosted natural gas supplies last week by 105 Bcf to 1.806 Tcf, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration's weekly storage report. But it wasn't enough to reverse a five-week streak of lower injection levels compared to last year. Storage is 15 percent lower than last year and about even with the five-year average.

In the Western U.S., storage inched up by 17 Bcf to 251 Bcf, putting supplies 23 percent lower than last year and 9 percent less than the five-year average.

Natural gas prices ignored the restart Wednesday of one of the Gulf of Mexico's biggest platforms and kept rising. After nearly two months, repairs to the Independence Hub platform and pipeline were completed [K .S.].

Western Electricity Prices
Week's End: June 2 - 6, 2008
Hub Peak (heavy) Off-peak (light)
Alberta Pool (C$) 7.74 - 715.91 0 - 53.44
Mid-Columbia 0 - 40 -5.00 - 3.00
COB 53 - 83.50 16 - 35.50
NP 15 76.50 - 96 35 - 66
SP 15 76.25 - 100 34.50 - 66
Palo Verde 75 - 96.25 41 - 64.75

Archives of the Western Price Survey for the past year are also available online.

The Western Price Survey is excerpted from Energy NewsData's comprehensive regional news services. See for yourself how NewsData reporters put events in an accurate and meaningful context -- request a sample of either or both California Energy Markets and Clearing Up.

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Contact Chris Raphael, editor with questions regarding Price Survey Content.

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